Franklin Expedition: Doomed Ship Discovered

Mark Shiffer

The second of the two shipwrecked vessels from the doomed Franklin expedition was recently discovered by the Arctic Research Foundation, reports the Toronto Star. They are one of the groups that have been searching for the lost Franklin expedition ship over the last few years. The newly discovered vessel was the HMS Terror. The HMS Erebus was found in 2014 by the same group. Researchers have been searching and speculating for decades on where the remains of the ships might be.

HMS Terror was one of the ships in an expedition that was led by Sir John Franklin to find the Northwest Passage to Asia in 1845. During the expedition, the ship became trapped in thick ice as colder weather set in. Franklin's crew was forced to abandon both ships. All 129 crew members, including Franklin, died shortly after. What actually happened has remained a mystery ever since.

One intriguing possibility is that some of the remaining crew from the Franklin expedition may have come back to re-enter the ship and desperately tried to sail south before running into more ice, according to the Guardian. Previously, it was thought the doomed crew had only marched south on foot in an effort to find refuge.

Sir John Franklin was an experienced explorer, including participating in three previous Arctic expeditions. The crew's disappearance baffled many. Several ships were later dispatched to search for the missing men. Some graves were found years later but not the location of the ships.

In the 1980s, further research was conducted on well-preserved graves and bodies of some of the found crew from the Franklin expedition. It was concluded that at least some of the men likely died predictably of hypothermia, starvation, lead poisoning, and diseases such as scurvy. Cut marks on some bones also suggested signs that cannibalism occurred.

For modern researchers, the search has centered around the last written coordinates found when the Franklin expedition first abandoned their ships. It came from a note discovered in stone dated April 25, 1848. The paper mentioned that Erebus and Terror had been abandoned three days earlier after getting stuck in thick ice.

The note was signed by Crozier and Fitzjames. The men were in command of the remaining expedition crew of 105 after Franklin's death. Franklin himself had died on June 11, 1847. They also wrote that they were going to walk down Back's Fish River. Their goal was to walk along the river until they found a Hudson's Bay fur trading outpost.

The discovery of the second Franklin expedition ship was based partly on luck and timing. An Inuit member of the search crew mentioned that he had seen a mast sticking out of the ice years ago. The team made a detour and soon found the missing ship, Terror. The Erebus was also eventually found based on Inuit legends of the Franklin expedition and sightings of a sunken large wooden ship. The Erebus was the flagship of the expedition under Franklin's command.

Archaeologists have already retrieved a bell, a cannon, and a ceramic plate from the Erebus. With winter fast approaching the Arctic region, further research on the Franklin expedition may have to wait until the following spring. In the meantime, one of the greatest tragedies and mysteries of the Arctic is one step closer to being solved.

[Photo by Unknown/AP Images]